|Artwork created during residency|
|Artwork created prior to residency|
Residency: October 2011; April-May 2013
While at Sculpture Space I worked on two projects for a solo show in Chicago at Packer Schopf Gallery in November and December of 2013. One is a series of flayed bears with different organ systems embroider on them and the second is a flock of life sized song birds and model WWII prop planes.
The bears play with ideas around stuffed toys, taxidermy and classification. They especially interest me as bears are the ultimate stuffed animals; both the iconic plush toy and the prized taxidermy specimen for hunters. Most of all the sculptures deal with vulnerability; the vulnerability that the animals face from environmental degradation, conflicts with people, suburban sprawl and poaching. I particularly find the dichotomy between the defanged, declawed childhood toy and the fierce reality of a top predator fascinating.
The bears – polar, grizzly, black, and panda – are about toy size and seated like a plush toy bear. Their fur is removed on the body, leaving a linen skin, as if they'd been flayed or like undressed porcelain dolls, with the hard sculpted fur covered head and paws connected to the soft linen body. At Sculpture Space I started the black bear, creating the foam body, sewed the linen and fur, sculpted the head and mapped out the embroidery of the spine and nervous system.
Flock is a large mass of North American song birds and WWII prop planes. I am building life sized song birds – red winged black birds, cardinals, orioles, and warblers – in silk and mixing them in with plastic 1:48 scale WWII model airplanes. Originally I was interested in the similarity in size and shape between the life-sized birds and scale planes along with the composition created by the birds’ colorful markings and the paint jobs of the planes. I realized I picked all male birds and WWII prop planes and what started as a physical comparison between birds and planes and how they compete for space in the skies, led deeper into issues of gender, environment, obsession and war. The military, model building and competitive birding are male dominated worlds that women are made unwelcome in. They are obsessive, geeky, and aggressive. More than the competition between biological and mechanical, the flock also becomes a commentary on gender and war. At Sculpture Space I was able to enlarge the flock with more cardinals, orioles, western tanagers and planes. I also worked on creating a smaller grouping around a Saw-Whet owl and B25-Mitchell bombers, exploring groupings of predators.
Sculpture Space provided an invaluable opportunity to do nothing but focus on my work for two months. The large studio space, about four times the size of mine at home, gave me both the physical and mental space to really see my work, access where the projects were going and ultimately change their directions and strengthen them. The large studio allowed me to reconsider how I am going to install Flock and the relationship between it and the smaller groupings of owls and bombers along with the ratio of birds to planes. New opinions from the staff, visitors and residents took my mind in new directions and help reaffirm others. Without the residency, I wouldn’t have the amount of work that I do for my show this fall nor would it be as strong as it.
About the Artist
Deborah Simon lives and works in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, cat and rabbit. She studied sculpture at the Repin Institute of Art in Leningrad, USSR, received a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and an then a MFA from School of Visual Arts in New York. She has shown around the country, including a solo shows at LZ Project Space in New York City and Packer Schopf in Chicago. She has also shown at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Wisconsin and St. Ann’s Warehouse’s Labapalooza! in Brooklyn. NY. She received a Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation grant and is a Sculpture Space and Vermont Studio Center fellow. She is represented by Packer Schopf in Chicago.